Reflections on the Model/Next Steps
The pilot has generated significant interest in and enthusiasm for children and young people's participation and rights at a range of levels - service-specific, locality-wide and strategic.
This interest and enthusiasm builds on a track record in terms of participation and engagement over many years, highlighted by the Care Inspectorate's joint inspection of children's services (2013) which highlighted the partnership's 'genuine commitment to consulting young children and young people in policy and service development' and commended the use of a 'very wide range of measures to consult and seek the views of children, young people, families and stakeholders'.
The model used in the pilot has involved a significant development on from previous approaches in that it has been explicitly grounded in a rights-based approach, with children and young people's human rights understood as basic standards and entitlements which adult participants have a duty to deliver on.
The model also involved children and young people engaging with adult duty-bearers on the basis of equity and a level playing field. This was largely made possible by the fact that the children and young people were themselves ready to participate (see 'preparing for participation'); that the first two events followed the same format, allowing both groups to clearly focus on children and young people's needs and rights rather than other considerations; and that adult duty bearers were encouraged to set aside their power and the limitations of their professional roles at the door.
The group that oversaw the planning of the pilot recognise that much of the success of the pilot and the three-event model was based on how ready the children and young people were to participate in this process. Some of the children and young people involved were not what might be seen as 'traditional participants' that we would see putting themselves forward for some of the more traditional forms of engagement such as local pupil councils or youth fora. It is recognised that the success in engaging such a wide range of children and young people in this pilot was as a result of significant work beforehand with the children and young people, where relationships were developed with adults that they grew to know and trust thereby enabling them to participate fully in the events. This process should be built in to any future models developed around engaging children and young people in the planning of children's services.
It is clear from the commitments that adult duty bearers made at the end of the third event that there is a widespread intention to improve outcomes for children and young people and to create new opportunities for children and young people to participate in service planning and decision-making.
Turning these commitments and this enthusiasm into day to day realities at all levels and across all services will clearly require ongoing support in terms of a continuing commitment across the partnership, CPD opportunities, sharing of good practice and specialist support from Young Edinburgh Action, the Children's Parliament and those involved in planning and delivering the pilot.
An intention was expressed by the chair of the partnership at the end of the third event to bring participants - children, young people and adult duty-bearers - back together again after a year or so to revisit the model and the commitments, celebrate progress and work together on what should come next.
The Edinburgh Children's Service Plan 2017 - 2020 will include a specific objective to 'Enhance children's rights across the city in line with the UNCRC' under strategic outcome 5 'Children, young people, their families and communities will be empowered to improve their wellbeing'. As part of the plan's performance monitoring framework, lead officers will report on performance across all of the strategic outcomes using a template which will include a description of how activities contribute towards the enhancement of children's rights and a description of what engagement has taken place with children and young people, parents/carers and others around the outcome.
In addition to the outcomes and objectives in the Children's Services Plan, the feedback from the pilot will also feed into the Edinburgh City Vision 2050, Locality Improvement Plans and work around Future Schools. The engagement of children and young people and their participation in these ongoing pieces of work are crucial in ensuring that their needs and priorities are listened to and reflected in future plans. The learning from this pilot will be shared in order to ensure that duty bearers can best engage with children and young people as well as consider the feedback that has already been gathered by the pilot.